What Is Meant By The Term 'situation Ethics' And Is Love Too General A Term On Which To Make Moral Decisions?

2480 words - 10 pages

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.How morality is perceived will differ from person to person. It is based on what we believe to be right or wrong. In reference to the above quotation, our decisions are inevitably an individual matter, no matter what others are doing around us. It is the fact that morality is personal that gives us the ability to determine a good decision from a bad one. No one has absolute views of everything; their opinions are relative to the current situation. This therefore makes it difficult to generalise morality as a whole.Situation Ethics is an consequential ethical system, particularly influential in Protestant Christianity, but dating back to the early Christian era. The first main principle of situation ethics is Personalism - the first order concern. It generates the idea that 'God is personal', and that human beings should have loving relationships. Personalism has similar values to Kant's maxim "Treat people as ends, never as a means to an end." It tends to encourage love which is personal to everyone, and not preferential. An additional principle of Situation Ethics would be Pragmatism. This takes a practical approach, and rejects Descartes' idea of Cartesian and European rationalism. A further principle is that of positivism. It has the outlook that 'God is love', and as Christians it is him (love) which we need to live our lives by. A final principle of Situation Ethics is Relativism. The entire significance of situation ethics is the idea that we must make the most loving decision in a particular situation. Therefore, being relative is fundamental if one wishes to follow the ethic correctly.Situation Ethics holds the view that love is the only moral criterion, and that all our actions are to be judged by it and it alone. St Augustine of Hippo Regius was one of the first to articulate this theory, claiming a basis in Jesus' teaching when telling his congregation - and troops - to "love and do what you will."However, it wasn't until the 1960's that this way of thinking became specified into its own dimension. During this time, there was a widespread reaction against what was seen as narrowness of traditional morality. It was a time of social change, a quest for freedom and self - expression.One book which reflected this social change was Joseph Fletchers 'Situation Ethics'. He was a professor at the Episcopal Theology School in Cambridge Massachusetts in the 1960's. The intention of his book was to communicate his belief that there are no fixed moral principles, but that morality is the result of individual spontaneous acts. Fletcher also wanted to maintain what he saw as the fundamental feature of Christian morality, the law of love. He devised six propositions which outline Situation Ethics; these include - 'Only one thing is intrinsically good: namely love, nothing else.', 'The ruling norm of Christianity is love: nothing...

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